Abaca to provide natural roofing for tricycle
THE COUNTRY’S ubiquitous tricycles will soon have something in common with luxury cars Mercedes Benz and Chrysler: abaca fibers or Manila hemps for its body parts.
Woven mostly into fashionable clothes and handcrafts, the indigenous threads yesterday made a debut as an eco-friendly and lightweight alternative roofing for tricycles, probably the Philippines’ most fitting contribution to the growing global technology of using natural fibers for industrial application.
Aptly named “Tryk in Juan,” the project was launched yesterday by the Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI) in collaboration with the Korea Institute of Materials Science (KIMS) in Taguig City.
The DOST-ITDI and KIMS started the joint effort to explore the use of different abaca treatments and composite production technologies for natural-fiber-reinforced composite production in 2010, years after Mercedes Benz and Chrysler started using abaca fiber for its exterior linings.
KIMS provided a yearly financial grant of P800,000 to the DOST-ITDI for the project, which took a vital turn in June last year when the latter signed a memorandum of agreement with Gnostek Inc. and the General Santos Street Lower/Upper Bicutan Taguig Tricycle Operators-Drivers Association.
Under the agreement, Gnostek Inc. was made the partner fabricator of the prototypes’ roofs while the tricycle drivers’ group was designated to pilot-test the reinvented tricycles.
At least 15 prototypes were distributed yesterday to the group to commence field testing.
The Tryk ni Juan, a reinvention of the Filipino public vehicle most popular in small towns and the barrios, is equipped with a roof and sidecar made of abaca-fiber-reinforced composite that makes it lighter and more comfortable compared to its traditional steely counterpart, according to developers.
DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña described the project as “pioneering work,” which will make Filipinos experience and become more aware of the benefits of science and technology.
“This is a commodity that will not harm our environment. It is very ecologically suited [and] it may even help the abaca industry, which is a very important industry to the Philippines,” he said at the launch, his first official function as head of the department.
The reinvented tricycles look more handsome and sleeker with its white exterior, promising drivers and commuters a more comfortable ride.
Dr. Blesie Basilla, chief of the Materials Science Division of the DOST-ITDI, said the use of abaca-fiber-reinforced composite as roofing material makes tricycles lighter, thus, improving fuel efficiency. Because of its insulating properties, it also protects riders from the scorching heat of the sun.
“Under this project…we visited the abaca farms to be able to see the sustainability of supply and also we were trained for the different fabrication techniques as well as surface modification techniques on the abaca fiber,” said Basilla.
The DOST-ITDI worked on the project with the help of new researches by KIMS on composite processing techniques, which led to the development of the composite material that now comprised the roof of Tryk ni Juan—a combination of abaca fibers and resin.
Basilla stressed that the abaca-reinforced composite as roofing material was a more environment-friendly alternative to conventional composites due to “reduction in carbon emission, renewability and biodegradability.”
Project leader Dr. Marissa Paglicawan said materials science experts from DOST-ITDI developed the abaca-fiber-reinforced composite to focus on the “green attributes” of abaca fiber.
“We used the abaca fiber as reinforcement material to promote the philosophy of green composites and increase the share of natural fiber composites in automobiles as well as structural parts in other countries,” Paglicawan said.
The project chose to capitalize on the abundance of abaca among a wide range of indigenous fibers in the country because of its good qualities as fiber reinforcement, she said.
Abaca fiber, which is endemic in the Philippines, is considered one of the strongest natural fibers. Aside from being lightweight, it is far more resistant to salt water decomposition than most of the vegetable fibers.
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